TECHNIQUES: How to Read More
Something a little bit different this week.
After two months of sharing personal thoughts and ideas on the new working world, it feels like time to attend to the techniques part of The WW Club's update mission statement. I’ve always been invested in the practical application of knowledge - it’s why I make planners, books, and worksheets - and so it’s important to me that this platform isn’t just a space for cerebral musings (although for those who have replied to say you’ve enjoyed them - thank you, and rest assured there will be plenty more to come), but also, for tangible tools and methods.
Think of TECHNIQUES as the action-based component of The WW Club, offering straightforward guides for living a better working life (and hopefully, a better life in general). In this and future newsletters, I’ll be sporadically sharing lessons gleaned from my own experiences, and occasionally asking smart people I admire to do the same.
How To Read More
It will come as no big surprise to anyone who has followed this platform for any amount of time that I am a big believer in reading. I deliberately use the term ‘Big Believer in Reading’ rather than a Big Reader™ because, like most people, I struggle to read as much as I’d like. Perhaps my aspirations are a tad ambitious (ideally I’d read for about 2 hours a day; more on the logic behind this number below) but, life most of us, again, my days are filled with more pressing commitments such as working, trying to take care of my body and my home, and engaging with public life. Etc.
But if you, too, are a ‘Big Believer in Reading’ - and trust me, pretty much ever successful person you’ve ever admired is - it’s worth aiming highish. Over the past year or two, I have made conscious steps to incorporate more reading time into my days. Here are some that have helped:
1. If reading is part of your job, treat it as such.
If you see reading solely as a luxurious self-indulgence - and neglect to devote any time to it as a result - start by questioning that assumption. Even as a professional writer, I used to feel guilty about reading at any point other than in the last, sleepy moments of the day, when I can barely retain any information anyway.
was only able to ‘justify’ factoring reading time into my work schedule once I finally acknowledged that there’s no way I can think, write, and (crucially) get better at writing if I’m not reading on a very consistent basis. I don't hit the two hour a day mark ever - except maybe on the occasional, especially peaceful weekend - but I now consider a slot of 20-30 minutes reading to be an essential part of my daily to-do list.
If you work in a creative field (or really, any field), reading is part of your job. Prioritise it, honour it, schedule it, and definitely don’t feel guilty about it.
2. Don’t read stuff you don’t like
Life is too short to read stuff that doesn’t spark your imagination in some way (although beware the monkey brain that makes you want to give up on a challenging book when you’re only three pages deep). Ask for recommendations from likeminded friends, Google your "favourite author's name here + reading list” to see what they like, and, of course, check The WW Club Library for stimulating reads that we love and recommend.
3. Segment your reading
As a ‘Big Believer in Reading’ I’m not suggesting that the activity should be entirely 'optimised' for the purpose of advancing your career (that type of work-obsessed thinking has already got us into all sorts of trouble). For me, reading is a huge source of pleasure regardless of my mood or the subject matter, but I do find that different types of content require different ‘reading brains’. For that reason, I usually stick to non-fiction and long form essays when I’m feeling mentally sharp in the day, and save novels and short stories for my dreamier, more contemplative mood at night.
Some good places to read during the course of your day:
- In bed, first thing. Charge your phone outside your room and use those first ten minutes you’d usually waste watching IG Stories to knock out five pages of a book.
- On the commute to work/wherever you’re heading that day
- Via audiobook at the gym/walking your dog
- In line at the post office/Apple Store/wherever you’re waiting around that day. Speaking of which...
4. Retrain your default thumb reflex
If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself opening the Instagram or Gmail app on your phone regardless of the reason you picked up your phone in the first place (Joking, obviously. Who needs a reason to pick up their phone these days?!)
Try hiding IG - or your default timewasting app of choice - and putting the Kindle app in its former spot. Every time you go to fill a spare ten (or five, or two…) minutes with some mindless scrolling, train yourself to power through a few pages of an e-book instead.
5. Watch less TV.
Modern TV is incredible and I love the occasional Netflix binge as much as anyone, but the amount of TV people seem to watch nowadays is frankly insane. Even if the quality of writing on that 12-episodes-per-season teen drama series exponentially higher that it might have been ten years ago, are you really going to devote 60+ hours of your life to viewing its entire run (alongside 80 million episodes of The Great British Bake Off and 4000 true crime shows?!!) Try switching out one so-so show for a really great novel – if only to give your blurry screen-saturated eyes a break.
FURTHER READING [ON READING!]
Staying Awake: Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading, Ursula LeGuin Harper's, 2008
What Is Literature For? The Book of Life
Read Like The Wind, Molly Young [Molly Young is a certifiable Big Reader™. Subscribe to her fantastic newsletter here.]
The WW Club Library [Links to books, essays, and online lectures, with new listings added every week.]